In this carbless, gluten-free, spinning/yoga/CrossFit-obsessed town, it's easy to vilify the humble loaf of bread. Sometimes offering very little in the way of nutrition and very much in the way of refined flour, the boule can be easy to bulls-eye.
But for the struggling actors, actresses, and just generally under-employed people in this town (cough, journalists, cough cough), the breadbasket can be a cheap way to fill up in some of this city's fanciest dining rooms. See? You can afford Spago! A glass of wine, a salad, and a refillable breadbasket is all you need.
Turn the page for a list of breadbaskets that go above and beyond the call of duty. No wan baguette. No cold defrosted rolls. Only the best for you, dear readers.
This teeny, kitschy café on Doheny does a brisk brunch business -- sweet, savory and slightly French. The servers here hustle, pushing tables together on the patio to accommodate larger parties, whipping around the small inside space with fresh OJ and espresso and eggs Bennys. On weekends, your order is served with an adorable little brunch breadbasket: usually a few baby muffins, some Danish, a croissant or two, or whatever they've been baking in back. So go ahead, dig into your egg white asparagus omelet and your skim latte -- since you didn't ORDER the pastries, the calories don't count, right? 638 N Doheny Dr, West Hollywood; (310) 858-0950.
Suzanne Goin is simply incapable of baking a bad loaf of bread. She's doing it all over town (at A.O.C., The Larder and Tavern) and at Lucques, her first restaurant in L.A. (at 15 years old, it could now be considered a mainstay). Grab a table in the garden or in the rustic dining room and as soon as you've put in your order you'll get an assortment of goodies: sliced sourdough, butter, fleur de sel, and a fingerbowl of olives and almonds. The simplicity is what gets you: tangy bread with the perfect crumb and a chewy crust, shmeared with butter, topped with salt flakes ... ahhhhh. Pair it with a light dinner and a seasonal cocktail or a glass of rose and forget that Atkins guy ever existed. 8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles; (323) 655-6277.
3. C&O Cucina
You barely have to sit down in this red sauce throwback before a server wanders by with a platter of garlic knots. The restaurant is literally littered with them: knots are on every table in the dining room and in front of every bar patron in the Rat Pack Lounge, and a fresh batch moves out of the kitchen every 5 minutes. Buttery, garlicky, salty little flavor bombs with an addictive crunch around the edges and a yiesty yield once you rip 'em apart -- it's impossible to eat just one. You can pair them with an olive tapenade or a marinara sauce that'll cost you a couple bucks, or just enjoy them plain. When paired with a glass of chianti during the weeknight Happy Hour (4-7 p.m.), your bill will come out to exactly $3.87. It doesn't get much better, or more delicious, than that. 3016 W. Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey; (310) 301-7278.
Wolfgang Puck's temple of meaty excess, located in the see-and-be-seen lobby of the Beverly Wilshire hotel, also happens to be one of the better spots to overdose on free bread -- a good thing too since dinner here will easily set you back $100 a person. Apparently, the more you pay, the more you get. You'll start with a silver canister of crunchy breadsticks, and on most nights, your waiter will then deliver you a little amuse-bouche basket of cheese gougères -- salty little popovers of pastry-dough awesomeness. Have a cocktail or a glass of wine while you peruse the menu, and soon the omnipresent server (the service here is seriously top-notch) will be by with the bread platter: house-made pretzel rolls and focaccia, as well as sliced pumpernickel and sourdough from La Brea Bakery. Load up your plate as often as you wish: Be sure to get your money's worth! In the Beverly Wilshire, 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills; (310) 276-8500
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The Scarpetta breadbasket is the king of all breadbaskets, a literal font of carb, crumb, and accompaniments. Beneath the white napkin you'll find house-made filone, a rustic Italian bread; a whole wheat focaccia topped with rosemary and sea salt; baby ciabattini rolls with the perfect amount of chew; and unbelievably, Stromboli!! Yes, this very chic Beverly Hills kitchen doles out slices of calzone-like Stromboli, stuffed with smoked mozzarella, salami and roasted cherry tomatoes. For free. This generous spread is served with mascarpone butter, eggplant caponata, and citrus-herb olive oil. Keep the gluten gluttony going with an order of chef Scott Conant's tomato-basil spaghetti, maybe the best thing to happen to the humble noodle since Marco Polo. In the Montage Hotel, 225 N. Canon Dr., Los Angeles; (310) 860-7970.
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